It doesn’t matter if you are blogging a novel, a memoir or a nonfiction book, if you want to convince your readers to think or act a certain way, you must hit them in the gut. (Not literally, of course.) If you can make them feel something, you can probably inspire them to behave in the way you desire.
Tell stories if you want to draw on your readers’ emotions. A good story that shows, rather then tells, them about the emotion you want to elicit in them will, in fact, elicit that emotion in those listening. Once they can feel what you are writing about, your readers are much more likely to do what you ask—buy your book, hire you as a coach, sign up for your email list, or tell their friends about your blog.
If you can tell a story in such a way that your readers place themselves in that story and experience it for themselves—not just experience it as you or someone else experienced it—even better. I think the best example of this technique can be found in the movie A Time to Kill when lawyer Jake Tyler Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) gives his closing argument in defense of his client, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), a black father who, to ensure the men would not be acquitted, after they were arrested, shot and killed two racist white men who had viciously raped and brutalized his 10-year-old daughter. Brigance describes the rape and torture in detail. The jury is all white. Brigance ends his story with this sentence: “Now, imagine she is white.”
That’s hitting them in the gut. Suddenly every one of those jury members could imagine what it might have felt like if that had been their little girl and how they might have responded. The lawyer won the case.
Reveal Your Inner Truths and Challenges
It’s human nature to respond when we feel emotionally connected to someone. That’s why revealing your own inner truths and challenges also moves your readers to action. When you are very honest and authentic, when you open up and really show your readers who you are, what you believe and what you struggle with, they become better able to relate to you. They trust you more. They also connect with you on an emotional level.
As you share your personal story or stories, your readers might put themselves in your shoes. As they experience your life from this perspective, they might feel inspired to think or act differently—possibly in the way you suggest.
Blogs like Jill Smokler’s Scary Mommy have achieved huge success for this reason. She talks about parenting in a very real and honest manner. Other people discuss their illnesses or their personal struggles.
Fiction Stories vs. Nonfiction Stories
If you are a novelist, you should be good at telling stories. And your blogged book should be a continuous stream of stories—one scene after another.
Memoirists also should be good story tellers because a memoir must read like a novel. Each vignette must evoke a sense of time and place and create a story arc just as if you were writing fiction, although you are definitely writing nonfiction. Many memoirists are very open and honest and reveal their challenges.
Nonfiction writers, like me, tend to struggle more with storytelling. We often have to search out stories. Those of us who write prescriptive nonfiction (how-to) books can find ourselves simply providing the steps with no illustrations in the form of stories that elicit emotions, or at least some sense of shared experience. That’s a mistake. It can work with some books, but, in general, a smattering of emotional stories will always help drive home your points and move your readers to action.
Do you have some great examples of emotional stories that have worked well to move your readers to action—and the proof that they did take action? If so, I’d love to hear about them in a comment.
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles|Freedigitalphotos.net
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